Betting the National League Central Division

It has become one of the more competitive divisions in baseball over the last several years. The National League “NL” Central has been dominated by the St. Louis Cardinals over the last seven seasons. The Cardinals have won four of the seven titles.

This year, there is a new player on the block, one that bettors should keep an eye on. The Cincinnati Reds have finished last or next-to-last in the division in each of the past six years, but the franchise has worked hard on building a roster that can compete. Can the Reds pull off the unthinkable?

The Favorite

Two of the last seven NL Central titles not won by the Cardinals were won by the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, who won the 2016 World Series, are the presumptive favorite at +185 to win the division in 2020. 

The Cubs finished 84-78 last season to wind up in third place. Chicago returns essentially the same roster from last year. The pitching staff is adequate but Jon Lester and Yu Darvish are another year older.

The bread and butter for the Cubs is a lineup that includes former NL MVP Kris Bryant, All-Star 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS Javier Baez, and LF Kyle Schwarber. All four hit at least 27 homers last year and RF Jason Heyward added 21. 

In making MLB picks this season, the Cubs are a safe bet but might not be the best bet.

New Kid in Town

The Reds are no longer the doormat of the division. Cincinnati has upgraded everywhere and that is why they sit at +225 to win their first division title since 2012. Joey Votto will be at first base with former Brewer Mike Moustakas at second. Moustakas hit 35 homers and drove in 87 runs last year in Milwaukee.

At third base is Eugenio Suarez who had a career year in 2019. Suarez hit 49 home runs, drove in 103 runs, and batted .271. The Reds also acquired Japanese baseball star Shogo Akiyama, who is slated to start in left field.

The pitching staff is solid as well. Luis Castillo went 15-8 last season and Sonny Gray finished 11-8. Wade Miley was 14-6 in Houston last year and don’t forget about Trevor Bauer. He was acquired last season from Cleveland where he went 17-9 in 2017.

There are plenty of MLB computer picks giving the Reds a chance to win the division. At +225, the payoff is a little better than the favored Cubs.

The Value Bet

In searching for the value bet in the NL Central, it’s definitely not the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs are a serious longshot at +8500 and other than 1B Josh Bell (.277, 37 HR, 116 RBI) don’t have a player anyone outside of Pittsburgh would know.

The real value MLB betting picks in the NL Central are Milwaukee and St. Louis, both priced at +300. The Brewers have a strong hitting lineup with former NL MVP Christian Yelich, CF Lorenzo Cain, RF Ryan Braun, and newly acquired 1B Justin Smoak.

Where the Brewers struggle is with pitching. Milwaukee was one of a handful of teams that used an “opener” or a relief pitcher as a starter. It earned them a wild card last year.

Pitching is the reason why St. Louis may be the better value pick. The Cardinals have a rotation that includes Jack Flaherty (11-8), Dakota Hudson (16-7), Adam Wainwright (14-10, 162 wins total), and reliever Andrew Miller. 

Many might over the Cards since they lost starting pitcher Michael Wacha and LF Marcell Ozuna, who hit 29 homers last year. St. Louis still has perennial All-Star Paul Goldschmidt, Dexter Fowler, and Kolten Wong.